The Newroz celebration in Istanbul was organised by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and socialist groups.
Call for a solution to Kurdish issue
Around 300,000 people gathered in Kazliçesme, in the Zeytinburnu district in western Istanbul, where DTP politicians and others spoke. DTP co-chair Emine Ayna, Istanbul MP for the DTP Sebahat Tuncel, DTP Istanbul mayoral candidate Akin Birdal, MP Ufuk Uras from the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP), Saadet Çaçan from the Peace Mothers, Levent Tüzel from the Labour Party (EMEP) and Gülseren Yoleri, president of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Foundation (IHD) all spoke at the rally, emphasising the fraternity of people, but also demanding concrete steps towards solving the Kurdish question.
In light of the upcoming local elections next week (29 March), the politicians foresaw that the government would see the reactions of the people. They called on everyone to vote.
Dancing, dresses and slogans
Women gathering in Kazliçesme were wearing colourful dresses in the style of traditional Kurdish dresses, while young people were wearing bandanas and scarves in the three colours red, green and yellow, symbolising the Kurdish flag. At the meeting place, people danced folk dances, sang folk songs, and shouted slogans.
Many of the people gathered shouted slogans such as "Biji Serok Apo" (Kurdish for "Long live Leader Apo", that is Abdullah Öcalan) and, in both Kurdish and Turkish, "Long live the brotherhood of people".
Call on government to enter dialogue
Akin Birdal and Esenyurt district mayoral candidate Tuncer Bakirhan criticised US plans for a solution to the Kurdish question, saying that a solution should not come from Washington, Brussels or Erbil, but from the squares of Newroz celebrations.
Sebahat Tuncel reminded the spectators of the meaning of Newroz, a day that symbolises resistance against oppression.
Ufuk Uras also called on the spectators to support the DTP candidates in the local elections, saying "There can be no solution without Kurds."
Emine Ayna called on anyone wanting to solve the Kurdish question to deal with Kurds directly, criticising former politicians Süleyman Demirel and Tansu Çiller, as well as present PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan for obstructing a solution.
Speaking for the Initiative of Peace Mothers, Çaçan said, "Today is our day. Mothers are saying ‘enough’." She called on PM Erdogan, saying that they did not want the deaths of any more soldiers or guerillas, asking that he sit down with Kurds at a table to find a democratic peaceful solution to the Kurdish question.
Singers Ayfer Düztas and Rojda sang Kurdish songs that the spectators sang along to.
Diyarbakir: Call for inclusion of PKK in peace process
In the southeast of Turkey, in Diyarbakir, the crowd of people gathering for Newroz was estimated at 75,000 by the governor’s office, at 500,000 by the DTP, and as one million by the Yüksekova News.
Addressing the crowd, DTP co-chair Ahmet Türk accused the government of excluding Kurds. Saying that a solution could not be found in such a manner, he also called for the release of Abdullah Öcalan, captured leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) from Turkish prison.
Greater Diyarbakir mayor Osman Baydemir said, "Let the world know that the voice of millions of people is the voice fo peace, justice and freedom. I send Newroz greetings to Selahaddin, Erbil, Mahabad, Kamisli and all the people of Kurdistan."
Former MP Leyla Zana referred to the Kurdish conference planned in Iraq within the next few months. Iraqi President Celal Talabani had said that the conference could result in a call on the PKK to lay down arms.
Zana said, "Kurds are not in love with guns. Do not hurt us, we have been hurt enough […]. Kurds will organise a conference among themselves and create their own model. Kurds have three large parties: the PKK, the KDP and the KYB (the latter two being the Kurdish Democratic Party led by Barzani, and the Kurdistan Patriotic Union led by Talabani)."
At the Newroz celebration, a message sent by Öcalan was read. Several Kurdish singers performed.
The Newroz celebrations in the southeast of Turkey have been interpreted by some as an answer to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is making great efforts to gain votes in the region.
Meanwhile, in Ankara and Istanbul and other cities, Turkish officials celebrated the Turkish version, "Nevruz". In Ankara, the celebration was attended by the US ambassador and Minister for Culture and Tourism Ertugrul Günay, while in Istanbul, governor Muammer Güler, mayor Kadir Topbas and army division commander Abdullah Dalay jumped over a fire as part of the celebration.
The contributions of the winners of a student essay competition on "Nevruz in Turkish Culture" were read out aloud.
At DTP Newroz gatherings in Sanliurfa and Adana, five people each were taken into custody. (EK-BÇ/EÜ)